By Jonathan Doyle
Let’s get straight to the question that may well be running through your mind right now, “Who are Unparallel?”. Their website doesn’t provide many clues, in fact it holds very little information on their backstory. Is this a marketing trick or simply a concerted decision to minimise confusion. Either way it only adds the air of mystery that surrounds this relatively new company and it certainly piqued my curiosity. After a little research, I discovered that the founders of Unparallel are made up of a number of ex-Five Ten employees and contractors who decided to set up their own business following the Adidas takeover. When looking at their range of shoes, parallels can certainly be drawn with the old Five Ten range, however most models offer a sizeable element of re-design especially in the newer offerings.
I have been climbing with my pair of Unparallel Lace UP for quite some time now and have given them a good run for their money. I’ve taken them on various adventures such a crack climbing in Tasmania to long multi-pitch mountain days in North Wales and the Lakes, plus they’ve become my go-to indoor shoe.
Build Quality and Comfort
On first inspection, the UP Lace follows a pretty simplistic design, to my eye, taking inspiration from the old Evolv Bandit and the Five Ten Anasazi Pink. The aim of the shoe was to cater for those after a stiff and supportive shoe, and with that they did not fall short. The synthetic upper is pretty unforgiving and even after a few months of use, it didn’t stretch, so your initial size choice will be important. I found the heel to fit well for me and hasn’t led to any unwanted slippages so far. I also really like the additional lace protection for jamming as it clearly shows that the company are keen to improve the longevity of their products; always a win in my books.
In general, I find my Unparallel UPs fit tightly, leaving little-to-no dead-space. This means they feel as one with my foot and doesn’t lead to any unwanted pinching or indeed weak spots where the material is more likely to break. The overall build-quality is excellent, but that is unsurprising considering they have over 20 years of experience making climbing shoes over in California.
The Unparallel UP Lace is a pretty flat high-performance all-rounder, and should be treated as such. I found that they are not the most sensitive climbing shoes in the world, and it took me a little while to trust where I was placing my feet with them. However, after some use, I found that they almost never randomly blow off holds! This I would say is mostly testament to the quality and of the rubber, but it has left me feeling confident and second guessing my foot-placement far less frequently.
When it came to edging and more delicate climbing, the UPs were superb. While the stiffness in the sole does compromise the shoe’s sensitivity a little, it does mean that they perform exceedingly well on tiny, almost-none-existent footholds. I watched a friend scale a particularly blank-looking E5 slab on the welsh slate back in the summer in his pair of UP Lace and they didn’t miss a beat; a good job too as he would have taken quite the whip if they had!
The Unparallel UP Lace climbing shoes can only be described as a crack climbing prodigy. Again, the stiffness of the shoe and the additional rubber on their sides provides extra protection when wedging your foot into even the most uncomfortable of cracks. They certainly held their own on the splitter cracks of Cataract Gorge in Tasmania, holding steady while my arms did not!
Overall, the Unparallel UP Lace climbing shoes really are tremendous. If you choose your sizing carefully and take the time to break them in, you will not be disappointed. They perform surprisingly well across many climbing styles, but most notably on tiny edges, slabs although where they truly excel is in the world of crack. I feel they are good value for money due to their versatility and longevity. While Unparallel are still a relatively new brand, I don’t think it will be too long before they are another household name alongside the likes of Scarpa, La Sportiva, Evolv and Red Chili.